Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Day with Trius Wines Part 2: All About the Food

The plates just before serving (left); Smoke filled bell jars ready to be served (center) ;
My final plate just waiting to be gobbled up (right)
Our day down at the Hillebrand estate with Trius Wines was alot about the wine, alot.  But there was so much fabulous food that I thought it deserved a post all it's own.  We started the day in the sparkling wine cellar with copious amounts of Trius Brut.  As we all gathered and enjoyed our glasses of sparkling wine we watched as Chef Frank Dodd plated our starters.  I was drawn into the gorgeous oyster and then noticed the salmon that sat under a little bell jar, that I soon learned was used to lightly smoke each piece of salmon.

Before I go too deeply into the food though, this day was as much about learning about Trius wines, but for me it was as much about learning how to cook with wine. Though we weren't specifically given a cooking class, each dish we had inspired me in some way to think of ways I could incorporate wine more into my cooking, as is evidenced by the fact that I came up with a recipe  go along with this post. Chef Dodd uses wine in such a thoughtful way in each dish.  It's inspiring.  I do cook with wine, it's in every tomato sauce I make and I use it often when roasting chicken too, but beyond that I don't think about it  other than as something to drink while I'm cooking.  This day and this event changed that for me.

Once we all arrived and had assembled in the Sparkling Cellar and had been plied with the Trius Brut, Craig MacDonald poured some Trius Brut Rose which was chosen to pair with our first bites.  Chef Dodd then pulled out a mini smoker that fit perfectly into a little valve on each bell jar to infuse each piece of icewine cured salmon with smoke.  It was truly an impressive presentation, watching the the chef add smoke to each plate and then to lift the jar have the smoke billow out to see a gorgeous piece of lightly smoked & cured salmon with the Beetroot Popsicle & Icewine syrup.  On the oyster side of the plate was a Raspberry Point oyster topped with a Cucumber & Brut Jelly and what was like a mini chop salad of lobster bacon & lettuce, topped with 2 small pieces of tomato, lobster BLT is what the chef called it.

I did my best to take each dish in one bite, since it seemed as though that's how they were composed.  Boy were they composed!  Each bite was so chock full of flavors and yet each flavor hit you at different times.  With the salmon it was the coldness of the beetroot then the sweetness of the syrup and finished with the lightly smoked cured salmon.  One word comes to mind, YUM!  Next was the oyster, something I'm a huge fan of anyway.   I generally like them with a bit of lemon and some mignonette but the sweet oyster flesh with the jelly and the sweet lobster would initially sound like a bit too much sweetness, especially to me who is not a fan of the overly sweet, but it was wonderfully balanced and a perfect little bite.  I would have ended the day down there with a few more of those exact plates and a bottle of the Brut Rose, but alas we were ushered upstairs.

beautiful platings being finished (left); Chef Dodd talking a bit about our food (center);
The deliciousness waiting to be dug into (right)
Upstairs, we entered into the kitchen and when I say this was a gleaming and bright professional kitchen that I would kill to cook in, that's an understatement.  It put the kitchen at the family-style chain restaurant I used to work at (the only other professional kitchen I've been in) to shame. There were rows of plates and wine glass all set up for us to each take out place.  I leaned over to Sarah, and said "You can taste all of the wine I'll stay in here for the rest of the day".

As the sous chef finished plating our next courses, Chef Dodd spoke a bit about what were about to eat and how Trius wine was incorporated into each dish.  Before I gush about each bite let me tell you a bit about what we were about to enjoy and what you are going to be ever so jealous of.

  • Toscano Cheese & Potato Croquettes (right)
  • Organic Watercress topped with an Icewine Poached Pear & Candied Walnuts & house-cured prosciutto with Cow's Milk Burrata, topped with a Chardonnay Dressing (left)
  • Maple & Butternut Squash Soup topped with Monteforte Goat Feta (center)

I started with the salad and could help but to gobble it up.  I LOVE burrata and a salad with fruit, nuts and cheese is always my favorite and how I make most salads.  It was delicious.  I then moved onto the soup.  I want to preface this with I'm not generally a big fan of squash soups, they are fine but never something I'm excited about.  Upon just one sip I fell in love with the velvety richness of this soup.  You could taste the squash first and then between the cheese and cream that was in it there was a tanginess that finished with a buttery richness that couldn't have been more perfect.  I would have happily had three more little cups of soup, and I still had croquettes to try.  Now you can never go wrong with fried balls of potato and cheese and these were great.  I can't gush about them, because while good nothing compared to that soup.  I'd love to go back and try them on their own because I'm fairly certain I'd love them and I know the Boy would.

Curing Prosciutto (left); Trius Red Wine Sliders (center); Aged Cheddar,
Blue Haze & Niagara Gold Cheese Plate (right)

Next was down to the Barrel Cellar for The Art of the Blend.  The focus of this part of the day was entirely on the wine and as you read in my wine portion of the day, was tons of fun. Before the wine blending began though Craig McDonald pointed out the prosciutto that was curing from the rafters in the cellar, probably the same way the prosciutto on our salad  was cured. If I wasn't a fan of Chef Dodd after the food we had thus far, that was enough to make me one.  I mean that's pretty awesome and hardcore.  I snapped some pictures and got on to the wine blending. As we were finishing blending and filling our bottles I noticed a few plates of food being set down.  Delicious plates of cheese including 2 of my fave Ontario Cheeses, Niagara Gold & Blue Haze.  Beefy goodness in the form of Trius Red Wine Sliders topped with Icewine Onion Jam,  Trius Beef & Mushroom pot pies with cornmeal crust and finally Red Cabbage braised in Icewine & Honey.

I'll be the first to admit that I was pleasantly warm and fuzzy inside from all of the wine, but even this little bar-type bite were delicious and exactly what we needed at this point in the day.  The sliders were so moist and the sweetness of the onion jam went perfectly atop them.  They were so good in fact that I created my own recipe inspired by them (see below) The red cabbage (which I sadly didn't get a picture of) was deliciously savory just placed on a piece of bread and you can't ever go wrong with local wine and local cheese.

All in all I was in foodie heaven.  If you find yourself in Niagara Wine Country make time to go to the restaurant at the Hillebrand Estate.  it's not a request or a suggestion, it's an order.  Go there.  Eat some of this delicious food, drink some delicious wine.  Of course if you have the time to do The Art of the Blend or perhaps even take part in one of their fabulous sounding Barrel Cellar Dinners, do that too, but if you can only stop in for a quick bite it will be worth your time.

Now as much as I love sharing cool events and foodie places with you, this is a recipe blog too and I was so inspired by the foods I had with Trius that I had to develop my own take on their delicious Trius Sliders.   Mine are called mini-burger because they are a bit bigger than a slider but not quite as big as a full-sized burger.  I took my own basic burger recipe and incorporated some Trius Cabernet Sauvignon into it.  Instead of making an onion jam I caramelized yellow onions with a bit of icewine.  Now if you are hesitant to open a bottle of expensive icewine to cook with, this recipe actually called for the exact amount you get from an icewine nip that you can get at any LCBO.  It's still a bit pricey but much more reasonable than buying a whole bottle to only use a very little bit.  I figured this out by using a nip I had been given around the holidays.  The Horseradish mayo was my own addition but was a nice foil to the sweet onions.

Trius Mini-burgers
makes 5 burgers

1 lb lean ground beef or ground sirloin
1/4 cup Trius Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cloves garlic - grated
cracked black pepper
5 Challah dinner rolls
Ice Wine Caramelized Onions - recipe below
Horseradish Mayo - recipe below

1.  Place the ground beef, wine, garlic & fresh cracked black pepper in a large bowl and mix with your hands until just combined, don't overmix.  Form into patties that will fit nicely on your rolls, I got 5 patties.
2.  Place the formed patties on a plate or a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and place int he fridge for at least 30 minutes.
3.  Preheat your broiler and preheat a grill pan over medium heat.  Toast the buns in the oven, be careful to watch that they don't burn.  Grill the patties for 5-6 minutes per side for medium.
4.  Assemble burgers by spreading horseradish mayo on the bottom bun, top with a burger and caramelized onions, fish with the top bun.

Ice Wine Caramelized Onions
makes approx 1 cup

3 medium yellow onions - thinly sliced
2 Tbsps butter
3 Tbsps Ice Wine
1/2 tsp dried thyme
sea salt & cracked black pepper

1. Melt butter in a 10" saute pan over medium heat.  Add in the sliced onions. Toss to coat in the melted butter.  Cook until they start to wilt and become translucent. Remove from heat and carefully add the icewine.
2.  Slowly cook the onions over low heat after the ice wine reduces down add in the dried thyme.  Cook until lightly caramelized, it should take approximately 30 minutes. Reserve for topping burgers.

Horseradish Mayo

1/2 cup mayonnaise - I made mine from scratch
2 Tbsps prepared horseradish

Combine Horseradish & mayonnaise in a small bowl, add more or less horseradish to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavor marry.

I'll be the first to admit I'm very pro cheese on burgers, don't think they are complete without it.  But the burger I ate at the winery was perfect without it and I wanted to try to recreate that juicy goodness on my own.  I think I did a pretty good job too. The Boy liked them too, which is always a win.

The size of these burgers is purely a function of the size of buns I found.  The mini challah dinner rolls were full of buttery goodness that held up to the flavorful burgers without overpowering them.  I have no idea if they are something our local grocery store bakery normally has but they were great with these burgers.  One was perfect for me with the side of mac & cheese I served with it.  Any of your favorite buns would work just as well, it's all about what you like.  I may even try to make mini brioche buns next time I make these, likely this summer.  I imagine them being pretty tasty bite for an afternoon on the dock up at the cottage.


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